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Hooks Family

Before immigrating to Canada in 1911, the Hooks family farmed cotton, wheat, peanuts, and sorghum in Sharpes, Oklahoma. Samuel Hooks, his wife Neoma, and their children Virginia, Ellis, Elmer, and Victoria left for Edmonton via train. Neoma’s mother, Mrs. Atkins, accompanied them but returned to the United States within the year as she was unable to adjust to the cold weather.

While the Hooks family lived in Edmonton, Samuel laboured as a construction worker and spent much of his time building the High Level Bridge. In 1915, William Allen, a Black settler originally from Oklahoma, told him about homesteading opportunities in the Black settlement of Keystone, Alberta. Eager to return to their farming roots, the Hooks family accepted the offer.

While homesteading in Keystone, Samuel and Neoma had several more children: Rosella, Kathryn, Richard, Mark, Beatrice, and Edward. Neoma managed the farm while Samuel, in an effort to help support his family, took seasonal jobs in Edmonton’s coal mines.

In the 1920s, Douglas Breton, an early pioneer of Keystone and president of the Telfordville Local of the Leduc District of the United Farmers of Alberta, started lobbying the provincial government to extend the railway into the Keystone farming area. In 1926, Breton was elected to the Legislative Assembly as a representative for Leduc, and his lobbying efforts were successful. The Northwestern Railroad Company extended the railway and built a new station called Breton. The town of Keystone was also renamed Breton in honour of Douglas Breton.

The railway brought new money into town; seizing the opportunity, Samuel sold some of his land to the railroad company at a fair price. He built a larger house at this time; unfortunately, the eight-room farmhouse was destroyed by fire in 1974. Samuel Hooks died in 1942, and Neoma in 1965.

Ellis, Samuel and Neoma's second child, moved to Edmonton and secured employment as a steam engineer. He soon found himself unemployed when the Great Depression devastated the local economy in the 1930s. Ellis was one of the many men who rode the freight trains across Canada looking for any available work. In the late 1930s, he eventually found permanent work as a tradesman. His daughter, Lois, a teacher in the village of Alder Flats, married Dave Robinson. Dave played in a band called Ebony and worked for an oil company. Lois and Dave later divorced, and Lois died from cancer when in her 50s.

Neoma and Samuel’s son Mark joined the Army in 1942. When he returned from overseas service after the Second World War, he worked at a lumber mill near Breton. In 1947, he married Gwen Day, a teacher at Breton’s Funnell School. When Funnell School closed in 1954, they moved to the County of Leduc. Mark Hooks died in 1994 while living in the County of Leduc. That same year, the Breton and District Museum erected a memorial plaque in honour of Mark’s father, Samuel. “Sam Hooks Ravine” in Breton is also named for Samuel Hooks.

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